Catching the Learning Curve: Texas Tech's 56-51 upset of the mad bombers from Ames is obviously a massive win for young Chris Walker and his even younger team. It was arguably Tech's best single-game performance in at least two seasons, and only six games into the conference slate, the Red Raiders have doubled their Big 12 win total from all of last year. But the win was most important from a heuristic standpoint. In the words of Inigo Montoya, let me splain.
The victory over the Cyclones clarifies roles for the Red Raiders. It defines what each player can and must do in order for the team to succeed. Tech doesn't have a do-everything superstar who can carry the squad. There is no Danny Manning, Grant Hill or Reggie Williams upon which to rely.
The Red Raiders are a collection of role players right now, but there's nothing wrong with that. If Walker's players accept their roles and mesh them together, they can exceed expectations and do themselves proud.
So what are the roles?
To begin with, Josh Gray is a lead guard in the mold of an Allen Iverson. He's not a pure point guard like John Stockton who's going to hand out eight assists per game. Instead, he needs to get half that many assists and average 14 points per contest down the stretch. Gray is the team's best shot creator, and a still anemic Tech attack need's him to do just that. And to score.
Jordan Tolbert is the team's enforcer. Despite hitting four of six shots against the Cyclones, his primary role is to bang bodies, bang the defensive glass, to play stout interior defense, and to draw fouls. Whatever points Walker gets from Tolbert will be welcome, but they will also be the gravy on the chicken fried steak.
Dejan Kravic and Jaye Crockett are Tech's wing players, and its secondary offensive options behind Josh Gray. Kravic has developed a nice little repertoire of driving runners and hooks. Crockett has an explosive first step that allows him to get to the hoop fairly easily whenever he picks the correct spots to do so.
Daylen Robinson and Jamal Williams are the settling influences. When the youthful Red Raiders begin playing out of control as they are wont to do, it is up to Robinson and Williams to play smart and bring the team back down to terra firma.
Toddrick Gotcher is the energizer and the closest thing the team has to a stopper. He will be counted on to cool off opposing twos and threes when they get hot.
And Dusty Hannahs, naturally, is the designated shooter.
This collection of role players is obviously not destined for the Final Four, but they can become a very unpleasant team to face, and they can build a foundation for something special in the near future.
Windex City, Baby! Holding the sixth best scoring team in the nation to only 51 points was a tremendous accomplishment, and consequently, Tech's defense will get credit for this win. But equally important was Tech's work on the defensive glass.
The Cyclones are a fierce rebounding team, and yet the Red Raiders held them to a grand total of three offensive rebounds. This was critical because you can bet if Iowa State had gotten many second opportunities, they would have drained several of their customary threes and buried Tech. But the Red Raiders dominated the defensive glass and limited ISU's offensive output.